One of our keys to the second half was finding consistent production from the leadoff spot. Last year, Endre Inciarte was stellar at the top of the order on the way to his first All-Star appearance. Unfortunately, those results did not follow him into 2018, as a slow start to the season saw him move up and down the lineup. Brian Snitker even tried hitting him ninth in an attempt to help get things rolling. The problem was nobody else had much success at the top either.
That was crucial when you consider how much production was coming from the players following. Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis were all selected to the All-Star game. They propelled the offense to the top of the National League without the luxury of a reliable leadoff man.
Our prediction: Ender Inciarte would eventually find his footing and propel this offense to even new heights.
Inciarte is simply too talented of a player to slump through an entire season. His improved batting in the second half compared to the first half is also well-documented over his career.
However, what happened next has given the Braves and their fans a whole new sense of hope as the calendar turns to September.
After losing eight of their last eleven prior to the All-Star break, Brian Snitker decided to switch things up by putting Ronald Acuña in the leadoff spot. The rest is history.
The 20-year old has been nothing short of magnificent. He is slashing an unbelievable .350/.429/.745 with a 1.174 OPS as the leadoff hitter, setting up the heart of the Braves order with a plethora of opportunities to drive in runs. To start games, he is hitting .394 with six home runs. And above all else, he brings energy to the team and the stadium from the first pitch.
Acuña may not appear like your prototypical leadoff hitter. In fact, based off his recent play, it is hard imagining him staying in that spot for years to come. However, this not your Dad’s MLB anymore. The likes of George Springer and Mookie Betts are becoming more and more prevalent as the leadoff man. Acuña can do it all and he may have just found his spot in the lineup for the significant future.
Inciarte, on the other hand, seems to have established a nice little home for himself as well. His .285 average since the All-Star break is miles better than the .241 he hit before the break. Snitker has since opted to move him into the two-hole, where he has hit .304 in his last six games. This appears to be the combination the Braves have been searching for at the top of the lineup for the better part of one-hundred games, and it could not have come at a better time.